Kookaburras, Hockeyroos in pre-Olympic Perth send-off

Murray Wenzel |

Australia’s Olympic hockey hopefuls will play a pre-Games series in Perth in April.
Australia’s Olympic hockey hopefuls will play a pre-Games series in Perth in April.

The Kookaburras have bottled the pain of their Tokyo Olympic near-miss and taken practical measures to prepare for a potential Paris repeat.

Australia’s men’s hockey team were denied a second Olympic gold medal in a gut-wrenching shoot-out loss to Belgium in the delayed 2021 Games in Japan.

That campaign defied a build-up ravaged by COVID-19 lockdowns that left the side stuck in Perth without valuable match experience.

Kookaburras players after losing the gold-medal shoot-out in Tokyo.
Aran Zalewski and the Kookaburras went agonisingly close to Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021. (Joe Giddens/AAP PHOTOS)

They’ll get that ahead of the Paris Games from July, with the world No.5 Kookaburras set to play five Tests against India, who are ranked one place higher, next month in the West Australian capital.

The Hockeyroos will host top-10 nations Japan and China in a six-game Test series at the same time. 

The inaugural International Festival of Hockey will fill a gap in the Australian calendar after no Pro League fixtures were scheduled on home soil during the Olympic year. 

The men haven’t played in Australia since a series in Tasmania early last year, but will now get a send-off before a European Pro League swing folds into their France medal hunt.

“They’ve been rare and this is a chance for our whole squad to get involved and take the opportunity to show they’re good enough,” two-time Olympian Aran Zalewski told AAP.

“India play fast, have great skills, score goals from limited opportunities … they’re a huge threat – and when India are playing well it’s so good for world hockey.”

The Kookaburras beat the world No.4 twice in India’s Pro League leg earlier this year, Australia boasting six wins and a draw from eight games overall to sit second on the ladder.

The side traditionally carry strong form into the Olympics, but have only translated that to a solitary gold – in Athens 20 years ago.

“It’s hard to win an Olympics and we were within a whisker in Tokyo,” Zalewski said.

“You go through a period where it’s painful, but then think about everything we did achieve and the story we tried to tell and I’m proud of that.

“I wouldn’t question the process, and execution comes down to a fine hair.

“We know how to get there and need to trust that what we’re bringing is enough.”

He said the side had forensically analysed their preparation for a shoot-out, the brutal method used to determine a winner if scores are locked at fulltime.

“We know it might come down to that again – it’s happening more and more often in major tournaments – and we are making sure we’re prepared for it,” he said.

“You get belief with results and our form in India certainly gave us that.”

Hockeyroos players celebrate.
The world No.4 Hockeyroos will head to Paris as genuine medal contenders. (Brenton Edwards/AAP PHOTOS)

The fourth-ranked Hockeyroos are 4-4 in Pro League action this season and will arrive in France as genuine medal chances. 

China’s women sit eighth in the world but are 5-3 in Pro League fixtures this season, while Japan are ranked 10th. 


* Kookaburras v India – April 6, 7, 10, 12, 13 

* Hockeyroos v Japan – April 20, 24, 28

* Hockeyroos v China – April 21

* Japan v China – April 23, 27

(all matches at Perth Hockey Stadium).